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Back side of the desert degree

1:32 a.m. on May 18, 2012 (EDT)
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136 forum posts

You have heard the old saying I got a back side of the desert degree when I did this or that...whats your most stupid moment? I bet we get some funny stories on this!

9:09 a.m. on May 19, 2012 (EDT)
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136 forum posts

Or even helpful don't do this ever, stories!

10:10 a.m. on May 28, 2012 (EDT)
10 reviewer rep
459 forum posts

I had been carrying the separate rain fly for the home made family 3 (two adult and two kid) person tent for years. It was the heaviest single piece of the tent 'system', but for sure we were going to need it...sometime.  It is one of those things, like a first aide kit, you always carry but seldom use.  I believe we had had two times in the last decade when we really needed to hunker down for awhile in shelter.  Usually the kids (8/10) and wife and I would put on rain gear and keep going during the short summer thunderstorm rains.

It had become routine, tent, fly, footprint, poles. Every time.

Except for the traditional Father's Day first trip to the Sierra and the traditional location - Cottonwood Lakes at 11,000' in the southern Sierra in the shadow of a gigantic wall that is 14,000' Mt Langley.  When we arrived and dumped everything on the ground ready to make camp - the tent fly was missing - still in the car.  The forecast was for light rain possibly snow in two days.  We figured that if it seemed too bad we'd just hike out earlier than planned. It was after all only about 6 familiar miles down to the parking lot.

The next morning was bright with a few high clouds. Ahh, truly saved my self some effort by forgetting the rain fly.  Noooo problem and feeling better about it every minute.  The kids and I took off for Old Army Pass at 12,300'.  Around noon, we started getting some hard frost falling as the temperature dropped and decided it best to get down to camp.  Wife had already covered the tent with our poncho's and was inside reading a book by the time we arrived.  It had started to snow lightly.  I took a nap with the idea that we'd see how bad it was a bit later in the afternoon.  By 5PM more than a day early than forecast, a light snow was starting to get heavy with not a sign of a breeze.  We thought it a wonderland.  No sound except very large flakes were now falling and you could almost hear the rustling in the trees as they fell.

About an hour later the wind had come up and the wet heavy snow was now accumulating on the tent and finding ways to wet the tent through the covering of parkas, ponchos and footprint.  Time to eat quickly and head down through the now about 2 inches of snow cover.  We and most of the contents of the pack were wet.  It was really - really snowing now.

Within a few hundred feet lower in altitude  the snow turned to a very light rain and it was getting very dark.  A few hours later we made it to the car in a constant cold heavy rain.  Exhausted kids, all of us wet and cold, we piled everything dripping on top of the completely dry rain fly, muttering that we could have stayed toasty warm and dry that night and leave at our leisure the next day or so.

5 hours later in our driveway and all very tired, we left everything and went directly to bed.  Still muttering about the stupid mistake of the rain fly. 

That morning's news showed rescue operations all up and down the Southern Sierra.  Apparently the storm had gather it self up to an unexpected full power snow dumper with 4 feet of snow over night much to the chagrin of the forecasters and other campers with a rain fly. 

IF I had packed the rain fly as I was supposed to, we would still be there that next morning, looking for the trail that no longer existed and probably having to shoo off helicopters that would be looking for us.

We were lucky on many accounts considering that we were over confident in our abilities to get out if things turned bad and waited almost too late to skedaddle.

3:22 p.m. on May 29, 2012 (EDT)
10 reviewer rep
459 forum posts

On a late season outing with a high school hiking friend, I used to have a favorite, brass/bronze Primus 123 stove that I would, on very cold mornings, prime and pressurize by putting it directly in the prior night's coals or the morning's warming fire.  With the right technique and timing the Primus would be doing its noisy blast furnace sounding work under a pot of water in seconds instead of minutes.  Having seen me do this several times, my packing buddy plopped it in the fire then turned to watch as several deer passed close to the camp en-route to a better location across the meadow from us.

We both were jolted back to reality when the stove let loose, in an impressively large mushroom of fire and black smoke engulfing the gasoline contained within it, raising into the sky scattering hot coals around the camp and on the tent half while scaring off the deer and me.  I had no idea what could have caused it until I looked over at the horrified look on my 'ex' friend's face as he stammered, "GEESH!  I forgot it!"

Ok I'm not going to add any more until others make fools of themselves too!!

8:02 p.m. on May 29, 2012 (EDT)
87 reviewer rep
2,221 forum posts

speacock said:

..the traditional Father's Day first trip to the Sierra and the traditional location - Cottonwood Lakes at 11,000' in the southern Sierra in the shadow of a gigantic wall that is 14,000' Mt Langley... 

(The) ..news showed rescue operations all up and down the Southern Sierra.  Apparently the storm had gather it self up to an unexpected full power snow dumper with 4 feet of snow over night much to the chagrin of the forecasters and other campers with a rain fly...

 

I have been caught twice by deep early/late season snow fall in the Sierras.  Hate it!  If the area is primarily bare rock beforehand, the footing is hazardous as your boot plunges through the full depth of the snow, leaving you vulnerable to twisting your ankle, or worse, on the hidden rocks.  The first time it took eleven hours to hike to our cars down the seven mile walk from the upper lakes below Bishop Pass.  The second time we had snowshoes, but still very tedious, lacking a solid base layer of snow.  No doubt about it, fresh snow over bare rock is a bad situation.

Ed

9:01 p.m. on May 29, 2012 (EDT)
14 reviewer rep
318 forum posts

I once tried to carry a fifty five pound pack up a mountain. It was near lake hemet in southern california. Let's just say you don't want to be carrying that kind of weight in 110 degree weather. By luck of chance I found the perfect camping site with a fantastic view about twenty minutes before sundown. I made dinner and got in my tent right before a swarm of mosquitoes showed up. All night long bats were everywhere.

Even though it was a bad plan I had a good time.

10:29 p.m. on May 29, 2012 (EDT)
87 reviewer rep
2,221 forum posts

I had thought long and hard about this topic, but could not come up with a noteworthy dumb move.  That is not to say I haven’t been in trouble; in fact I have used most of my nine lives, but those were situations where the risk was understood and accommodated, part of the reason I am still alive to relate such tales.  But this thread is not asking for thrilling tales of misguided courage, or more accurately foolish exploits of hubris.  No, I think this thread beckons the tale of stupid folly.

If you camp long enough you will have your own tales to tell, or at least witness another’s idiotic exploit. I can recall other’s exploits aptly: 

There was the time a Boy Scout friend was playing in the fire with what appeared to be a soda straw.  As his patrol leader I was about to ask what he was doing when the straw, or should I say Mexicalli firecracker,  exploded in his hand, spawling much of the skin off his palm.  He eventually recovered most tactile sensation and full use of his hand.  That was pretty frightful, and created a pretty ugly looking wound.

There was the Boy Scout Camperie, where a scout was attempting to use the sulfurous scent of matches to mask the smell of the outhouse, when he somehow ignited the contents of the pit below the toilet, burning down the privy and starting a small brush fire.  Much pandemonium. 

Then there is a particular redneck coworker who had a penchant for boating mishaps.  He has sunken more water vessels than a U-boat captain.  His more notorious feats include two scuttlings, one while still tied to the dock and the other with the bow purposefully beached on dry land.  Go figure.  While those tales are hilarious in their own right, they were not camping exploits.  In that regard my buddy’s back country buffoonery usually included alcohol, and falling out of folding chairs, breaking them in the process, or slipping and falling down long embankments.  He has been known to face plant into camp fires on more than one occasion, each miraculously without injury.  Nevertheless I always make sure he is carrying a first aid kit that includes splints, burn ointment, and lots of gauze and tape.

I have thrown these tales out there, as if they somehow would bore you, and thusly spare me the dignity of sharing my own follies. But if you are still reading this, my stall tactic has failed, and eventually you’ll get to the story where I was somehow buffaloed to streak across a summer camp stage of fellow Boy Scouts, only to realize center stage the audience also included girls from the adjacent summer camp, and that the other side of the stage was barricaded, foiling my quick exit.  On second thought I will let your imagination fill in the sordid details.

But I have two other dumb moves to share.  The first one is an early season Sierra trip.  We are fishing on a lake still surrounded by snow.  It is early morning, pretty chilly.  I am approaching the lake bank when I slip, toboggan off the snow bank, fall about five feet and land back first in the shallow water, smacking my head on a rock.  (Note to self: crampons aren’t just for steep inclines.)  The bump incapacitated me; I floundered around spastically and disoriented, almost drowning in only a foot of water.  A friend saw my plight and fished me from the shin deep depths of doom.  In the process of falling I had snared myself by the last joint of my middle finger with the fly lure.  It was embedded in the knuckle joint and required a field incision to extricate the barb from the joint cartilage.  None of my friends had the stomach to cut me thusly, so I was left to my own wits.  After a pint of distilled spirits and ice packings, I mustered the courage and numbness to act as my own surgeon.  With said finger resting on a rock, and chin resting on knife resting on said knuckle, I drew the blade across the wound site, and splayed open my finger to the bone.  The hook was removed with a quick jerk on the needle nose pliers.  Mildly concussed and suffering from a sore finger, I spent the remainder of that trip medicinally jacked up on Johnny Red.  It is among my least pleasurable back country memories.

The other misadventure is even more foolish.  We hiked over Mono Pass(the one above Tom’s Place) for our eventual destiny near Chief Lake, along the Silver Divide.  The morning of the second day found us camped at Forth Recess Lake.  This lake is snug against the Sierra crest escarpment, yet its basin’s depth puts it at an elevation low enough to support a forest that surrounds the lake on three sides.  Avalanche activity periodically clears a path through this forest, and deposits their debris of trees and snow on the lake.  As a result the shoreline of Forth Recess Lake is strewn with waterlogged, fallen, stags.  Anyway I was going about the morning routines.  I had to fetch water so I surveyed the shoreline for a good dipping station.  I saw what appeared to be a good spot at the end of several stags lying side by side.  The logs looked dry, topside, but halfway out my left foot slipped, and my head and feet traded places.  I landed with my left arm behind me.  The elbow and hand found the logs but my forearm remained unsupported.  My full weight came down on the forearm, and it made a sound like a snapping stick.  My arm was pinned under me, and I was half emerged.  The cold alpine lake water urged me to hustle out of the water, yet a sharp pain and my odd position on slippery logs demanded a more deliberate approach.  After I got back on dry ground a quick assessment confirmed my suspicion.  I walked back into camp, very annoyed with myself, and announced to one of my companions, “I just broke my arm.”  At first he was dubious, but when he turned around and looked, the slight crook in my forearm left no doubts, I had fractured my ulna at the mid length.  Well my friend broke into a panic!  He bolted off to collect our other two companions.  They all came back into camp bug eyed, waving their arms, and pondering several evacuation plans, including getting an equestrian outfitter several miles downstream to abandon her clients and race back to civilization to summon a helicopter for my extrication.  I told them no such plan was going to be put into action, that the most extreme action would be hoisting my pack beyond bears’ reach, and enduring a long forced but very doable walk back to the trailhead.  I would retrieve my pack at a later date.  Having said that, I suggested instead we finish out our trip, as planned.  I was only mildly uncomfortable, thanks to both a high pain tolerance and the fact that holding my arm like a folded wing removed painful forces from the break site.  In any case a few days wait for the doctor’s prognosis wasn’t going to have much impact one way or the other, and I would rather convalesce among this fine scenery, than at home.  Eventually a plate was installed to repair my arm.  The lesson in this accident was my error in judgment.  The logs looked dry, and indeed on some other lake shore that is probably the case.  But the preceding day late afternoon winds kicked up, causing 12” swells to lap over these logs.   It was logical to assume they were wet, regardless of appearances.  And with that in mind I should not have even attempted to walk on these logs, as soaked, downed, wood is a big slip hazard.  I was lucky I wasn’t impaled, or experienced some other, more serious, mishap.

Ed

10:14 a.m. on May 30, 2012 (EDT)
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ROTFL, Ed!

Gonna be hard to match those!

11:07 a.m. on May 30, 2012 (EDT)
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Hmm, I’ve actually made it through almost 40 years of life without ever hearing that particular phrase. I like it.

Well, my dumbest moments in the backcountry were teenage years with friends and really not fit for public retelling.

However, the weekend before last I had a whole trip of mistakes and irritations. I had considered writing a trip report (no pictures however), so this may be the more appropriate thread anyway. I was going to title it: “not every trip is a good trip”.

My plan was typical for me: rush to the trail after Friday at work to squeeze in as much backcountry time as possible. My destination was the Upper Bald Wilderness in East TN, requiring about a 2 hour and 45 minute drive from my house. (for any that know the area….park on Holly Flats road, road-walk to Kirkland Creek, camp somewhere in the basin, continue up to Sandy Gap, go across State Line Ridge and back down the Brookshire to Holly Flats Road.)

Well, my job interfered and I didn’t get home until 5:55PM. Ouch…night hiking is now likely.

Feeling rushed, I hurriedly threw together my stuff and jumped in the car and drove down the street.  Ah crap…I forgot to turn on the alarm system. So I turned around, drove back, went back in and thought “I need a bottle of water for the road”, grabbed one out of the fridge and left. Again, I forgot to turn on the alarm system. So after my second return and neighborhood tour, I’m finally off.

Of course going down Alcoa (I’ll-kill-ya) Highway is a big sloppy traffic jam. Nice.  

Next irritation: I wanted to grab a sub sandwich to throw in the pack for a no-cook dinner at camp, but was cut-off in traffic at the place I tried to get to and missed the turn. Curses…

So I stop in Madisonville and try a sub from a new place. By this time I was hungry and not wanting to wait until camp. So while driving, I decide to try and consume this enormous veggie sub complete with spicy mustard, oil and vinegar, grilled onions and peppers, etc… guess what happens next? Oh yeah….after bite number one the thing fell apart and covered my chest and lap. So yeah, I’m heading to bear country covered in the wonderful smell of grilled onions.  Of course it costs me another 15 minutes to stop and scoop the contents of my dinner from the floorboard of my nasty car into the trash as well as try to clean myself up in a gas station bathroom.

So I finally get to the trail head as the sun is going down and decide to snap a picture to start my trip as I normally do….that’s right, I forgot my camera.

So the first many miles of trail have lots of sandy bottom creek crossings for which I brought some Teva water shoes (intending to hike in them to save time) and even though I know better, I thought “I’ll not bother wearing socks since I’ll just have to carry wet ones for the rest of the trip.” Stupid….my heel starting feeling irritated after the first two crossings; when I got to my site after a few miles and five crossings, there was a raw spot on the back of my foot pouring blood. And of course I was reminded of that stupidity for the rest of the weekend with every step.

That night the mosquitoes descended on me in force. Oh yeah, I forgot to bring any DEET or net. Oh joy, this is a themed hike.

Well, I probably shouldn’t admin this either but I went off to use the bathroom (completely dark by now) and somehow got turned around and could not find the trail back to my tent. The trail was very faint and nearly imperceptible in the dark; I eventually followed the sound of the creek back through the woods and then followed the creek back to my camp. arrghh

Well the next day I had a good morning at least and a nice hike up to Sandy Gap.  I knew this was a wilderness area and not a park but I guess I thought there would be some sign indicating the State Line Ridge trail. There is not. After reaching what should be Sandy Gap based on my estimation, I decided to go further on the established path and make sure I hadn’t reached a false gap. So I went about 30 minutes past and found no other Gap. After returning I decided that one of the three old logging cuts must be the correct trail. So I tried all three for about 10 minutes each and all were complete bush whacks. By this time my day is running out and having Sunday responsibilities with a nearly three hour drive home, I wound up retuning the way I came (back over all those creek crossings) with my loop left undone.

I don’t post all of my trips on Trailspace and sometimes, this is why. J

10:37 p.m. on May 30, 2012 (EDT)
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136 forum posts

Remember Moses had to go through 40 years in a dessert to be strong enough to lead. Ergo...back side of the dessert degree.I'm sure we haven't gone through as much...LOL

11:26 p.m. on May 30, 2012 (EDT)
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136 forum posts

speacock said:

I had been carrying the separate rain fly for the home made family 3 (two adult and two kid) person tent for years. It was the heaviest single piece of the tent 'system', but for sure we were going to need it...sometime.  It is one of those things, like a first aide kit, you always carry but seldom use.  I believe we had had two times in the last decade when we really needed to hunker down for awhile in shelter.  Usually the kids (8/10) and wife and I would put on rain gear and keep going during the short summer thunderstorm rains.

It had become routine, tent, fly, footprint, poles. Every time.

Except for the traditional Father's Day first trip to the Sierra and the traditional location - Cottonwood Lakes at 11,000' in the southern Sierra in the shadow of a gigantic wall that is 14,000' Mt Langley.  When we arrived and dumped everything on the ground ready to make camp - the tent fly was missing - still in the car.  The forecast was for light rain possibly snow in two days.  We figured that if it seemed too bad we'd just hike out earlier than planned. It was after all only about 6 familiar miles down to the parking lot.

The next morning was bright with a few high clouds. Ahh, truly saved my self some effort by forgetting the rain fly.  Noooo problem and feeling better about it every minute.  The kids and I took off for Old Army Pass at 12,300'.  Around noon, we started getting some hard frost falling as the temperature dropped and decided it best to get down to camp.  Wife had already covered the tent with our poncho's and was inside reading a book by the time we arrived.  It had started to snow lightly.  I took a nap with the idea that we'd see how bad it was a bit later in the afternoon.  By 5PM more than a day early than forecast, a light snow was starting to get heavy with not a sign of a breeze.  We thought it a wonderland.  No sound except very large flakes were now falling and you could almost hear the rustling in the trees as they fell.

About an hour later the wind had come up and the wet heavy snow was now accumulating on the tent and finding ways to wet the tent through the covering of parkas, ponchos and footprint.  Time to eat quickly and head down through the now about 2 inches of snow cover.  We and most of the contents of the pack were wet.  It was really - really snowing now.

Within a few hundred feet lower in altitude  the snow turned to a very light rain and it was getting very dark.  A few hours later we made it to the car in a constant cold heavy rain.  Exhausted kids, all of us wet and cold, we piled everything dripping on top of the completely dry rain fly, muttering that we could have stayed toasty warm and dry that night and leave at our leisure the next day or so.

5 hours later in our driveway and all very tired, we left everything and went directly to bed.  Still muttering about the stupid mistake of the rain fly. 

That morning's news showed rescue operations all up and down the Southern Sierra.  Apparently the storm had gather it self up to an unexpected full power snow dumper with 4 feet of snow over night much to the chagrin of the forecasters and other campers with a rain fly. 

IF I had packed the rain fly as I was supposed to, we would still be there that next morning, looking for the trail that no longer existed and probably having to shoo off helicopters that would be looking for us.

We were lucky on many accounts considering that we were over confident in our abilities to get out if things turned bad and waited almost too late to skedaddle.

 Wow, sounds like you were saved from a mess.

11:29 p.m. on May 30, 2012 (EDT)
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136 forum posts

speacock said:

On a late season outing with a high school hiking friend, I used to have a favorite, brass/bronze Primus 123 stove that I would, on very cold mornings, prime and pressurize by putting it directly in the prior night's coals or the morning's warming fire.  With the right technique and timing the Primus would be doing its noisy blast furnace sounding work under a pot of water in seconds instead of minutes.  Having seen me do this several times, my packing buddy plopped it in the fire then turned to watch as several deer passed close to the camp en-route to a better location across the meadow from us.

We both were jolted back to reality when the stove let loose, in an impressively large mushroom of fire and black smoke engulfing the gasoline contained within it, raising into the sky scattering hot coals around the camp and on the tent half while scaring off the deer and me.  I had no idea what could have caused it until I looked over at the horrified look on my 'ex' friend's face as he stammered, "GEESH!  I forgot it!"

Ok I'm not going to add any more until others make fools of themselves too!!

LOL, we all have a story or too. Like I went swimming in a long jean dress and almost drowned. I just had my 8th child 3 weeks before and apparently was to weak still. But will I ever do it again ? No way. 

11:30 p.m. on May 30, 2012 (EDT)
3 reviewer rep
136 forum posts

whomeworry said:

speacock said:

..the traditional Father's Day first trip to the Sierra and the traditional location - Cottonwood Lakes at 11,000' in the southern Sierra in the shadow of a gigantic wall that is 14,000' Mt Langley... 

(The) ..news showed rescue operations all up and down the Southern Sierra.  Apparently the storm had gather it self up to an unexpected full power snow dumper with 4 feet of snow over night much to the chagrin of the forecasters and other campers with a rain fly...

 

I have been caught twice by deep early/late season snow fall in the Sierras.  Hate it!  If the area is primarily bare rock beforehand, the footing is hazardous as your boot plunges through the full depth of the snow, leaving you vulnerable to twisting your ankle, or worse, on the hidden rocks.  The first time it took eleven hours to hike to our cars down the seven mile walk from the upper lakes below Bishop Pass.  The second time we had snowshoes, but still very tedious, lacking a solid base layer of snow.  No doubt about it, fresh snow over bare rock is a bad situation.

Ed

 agreed!

11:33 p.m. on May 30, 2012 (EDT)
3 reviewer rep
136 forum posts

Patman said:

Hmm, I’ve actually made it through almost 40 years of life without ever hearing that particular phrase. I like it.

Well, my dumbest moments in the backcountry were teenage years with friends and really not fit for public retelling.

However, the weekend before last I had a whole trip of mistakes and irritations. I had considered writing a trip report (no pictures however), so this may be the more appropriate thread anyway. I was going to title it: “not every trip is a good trip”.

My plan was typical for me: rush to the trail after Friday at work to squeeze in as much backcountry time as possible. My destination was the Upper Bald Wilderness in East TN, requiring about a 2 hour and 45 minute drive from my house. (for any that know the area….park on Holly Flats road, road-walk to Kirkland Creek, camp somewhere in the basin, continue up to Sandy Gap, go across State Line Ridge and back down the Brookshire to Holly Flats Road.)

Well, my job interfered and I didn’t get home until 5:55PM. Ouch…night hiking is now likely.

Feeling rushed, I hurriedly threw together my stuff and jumped in the car and drove down the street.  Ah crap…I forgot to turn on the alarm system. So I turned around, drove back, went back in and thought “I need a bottle of water for the road”, grabbed one out of the fridge and left. Again, I forgot to turn on the alarm system. So after my second return and neighborhood tour, I’m finally off.

Of course going down Alcoa (I’ll-kill-ya) Highway is a big sloppy traffic jam. Nice.  

Next irritation: I wanted to grab a sub sandwich to throw in the pack for a no-cook dinner at camp, but was cut-off in traffic at the place I tried to get to and missed the turn. Curses…

So I stop in Madisonville and try a sub from a new place. By this time I was hungry and not wanting to wait until camp. So while driving, I decide to try and consume this enormous veggie sub complete with spicy mustard, oil and vinegar, grilled onions and peppers, etc… guess what happens next? Oh yeah….after bite number one the thing fell apart and covered my chest and lap. So yeah, I’m heading to bear country covered in the wonderful smell of grilled onions.  Of course it costs me another 15 minutes to stop and scoop the contents of my dinner from the floorboard of my nasty car into the trash as well as try to clean myself up in a gas station bathroom.

So I finally get to the trail head as the sun is going down and decide to snap a picture to start my trip as I normally do….that’s right, I forgot my camera.

So the first many miles of trail have lots of sandy bottom creek crossings for which I brought some Teva water shoes (intending to hike in them to save time) and even though I know better, I thought “I’ll not bother wearing socks since I’ll just have to carry wet ones for the rest of the trip.” Stupid….my heel starting feeling irritated after the first two crossings; when I got to my site after a few miles and five crossings, there was a raw spot on the back of my foot pouring blood. And of course I was reminded of that stupidity for the rest of the weekend with every step.

That night the mosquitoes descended on me in force. Oh yeah, I forgot to bring any DEET or net. Oh joy, this is a themed hike.

Well, I probably shouldn’t admin this either but I went off to use the bathroom (completely dark by now) and somehow got turned around and could not find the trail back to my tent. The trail was very faint and nearly imperceptible in the dark; I eventually followed the sound of the creek back through the woods and then followed the creek back to my camp. arrghh

Well the next day I had a good morning at least and a nice hike up to Sandy Gap.  I knew this was a wilderness area and not a park but I guess I thought there would be some sign indicating the State Line Ridge trail. There is not. After reaching what should be Sandy Gap based on my estimation, I decided to go further on the established path and make sure I hadn’t reached a false gap. So I went about 30 minutes past and found no other Gap. After returning I decided that one of the three old logging cuts must be the correct trail. So I tried all three for about 10 minutes each and all were complete bush whacks. By this time my day is running out and having Sunday responsibilities with a nearly three hour drive home, I wound up retuning the way I came (back over all those creek crossings) with my loop left undone.

I don’t post all of my trips on Trailspace and sometimes, this is why. J

Oh you know we all loved to get lost! Well.....

1:30 p.m. on June 1, 2012 (EDT)
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459 forum posts

Early college years a few in the Mountain Club of Colorado College decided to do some rock work on Hallet Peak in Rocky Mountain NP.   We planned to make a loop of it and to take a snow field down - Andrews Glacier. For some reason I (later to be lovingly called the 'village idiot') turned out to be the 'mule' for most of the hardware

Late afternoon we started down Andrews Glacier by the most direct route - down the center.  There is a sign now that says descend any place but the center.  There is a largish bulge that is perfect with crampons.  We didn't have any that trip. You'd think that would stop us?  Heck no!.  The bulge comes up gradually so that you really don't recognize it until almost too late to traverse.  I started the traverse...being the heaviest with all the gear, I made grand deep steps in the slush.

I slipped out of the line and caromed down hill flying out of sun cups trying elbow and knee self arrest - no crampons - no ice ax.  I remember being launched up in the air after hitting a snow jam off the end of the glacier, my compatriots laughing like crazy, knees and elbows still down when I hit the water at around a bazillion miles and hour. BIG splash according to the useless bystanders. The impact loosened all the air I had in my lungs including the gigantic inhale I had taken just before hitting the water.

I immediately sank to the bottom slipping out of the pack straps (no real harness back then) - maybe 10 feet - and struggled up to the top with heavy weighted boots trying to hold onto the bottom almost as if some sea creature were tugging at me.  No way I was going to leave those almost new boots in that pond. I made it to a rock just a few feet away near shore and held on until the rest of the still cat calling 'friends' got down to get a line to me.

By that time I was almost near not breathing with all of the shuddering from the cold. After an hour of warming and shaking we were still left with the problem of the pack at the bottom of the tarn and it was getting late.  It was, for college kids, an irreplaceable investment in some good hardware - some of it borrowed.

Since I was the one in charge of 'loosing' the gear, it was (all but one) unanimously decided that since I was already wet, I should be the one to get it back.

Bootless, shirtless, pantless and wit less,  with a rope tied to me and held by two other guys of dubious character or responsibilities, I jumped in holding a large rock to get me to the bottom quickly. Hitting the water I almost ingested half of the pond in one gulp.  I could not believe how cold it was and how little control I had over what was a simple matter of putting a slinged caribiner over a pack's shoulder strap.

I was almost yanked out prematurely since they thought I had snagged the pack and was dragged out of the water mostly holding on to the pack. GAWD!  it was a lot heavier in the water than I thought it was on my back.

Back on the beach I went through a second series of warming up exercises with borrowed clothing...mine were still in the pack.

My teeth were still chattering as we passed the lakes on the way to the parking lot a few miles away.  So we stopped and made a huge fire (could do that back then) and finished the thawing out process. We ended up at the car well into the darkness of a moonless night.  I didn't fully feel comfortably warmed up until we passed Boulder on the way home.

Speed forward a couple of decades and our family (kids around 9/11) were doing a 4 day loop via Grand Lake ending up going down the same glacier - almost at the same time of day as last time.  This time we stayed well to the left.  I was amazed at how far the glacier had retreated. I would not have survived that slide off the end of it now into the rocks below and many feet from the end of the tarn.

My kids wanted to go swimming in Andrews Tarn to celebrate my unplanned trip there.  It was one of those in there; YIKES!; out of there activities.  It still felt just a few degrees above freezing.  It also didn't appear nearly as deep as it appeared previously.  But then the edge no longer over hung the water.

Looking back I am amazed how little life was really worth then.  Maybe $70 for a pack and hardware - $15 more for boots.  But then a nickle was worth a nickle then.

5:15 p.m. on June 2, 2012 (EDT)
3 reviewer rep
136 forum posts

speacock said:

Early college years a few in the Mountain Club of Colorado College decided to do some rock work on Hallet Peak in Rocky Mountain NP.   We planned to make a loop of it and to take a snow field down - Andrews Glacier. For some reason I (later to be lovingly called the 'village idiot') turned out to be the 'mule' for most of the hardware

Late afternoon we started down Andrews Glacier by the most direct route - down the center.  There is a sign now that says descend any place but the center.  There is a largish bulge that is perfect with crampons.  We didn't have any that trip. You'd think that would stop us?  Heck no!.  The bulge comes up gradually so that you really don't recognize it until almost too late to traverse.  I started the traverse...being the heaviest with all the gear, I made grand deep steps in the slush.

I slipped out of the line and caromed down hill flying out of sun cups trying elbow and knee self arrest - no crampons - no ice ax.  I remember being launched up in the air after hitting a snow jam off the end of the glacier, my compatriots laughing like crazy, knees and elbows still down when I hit the water at around a bazillion miles and hour. BIG splash according to the useless bystanders. The impact loosened all the air I had in my lungs including the gigantic inhale I had taken just before hitting the water.

I immediately sank to the bottom slipping out of the pack straps (no real harness back then) - maybe 10 feet - and struggled up to the top with heavy weighted boots trying to hold onto the bottom almost as if some sea creature were tugging at me.  No way I was going to leave those almost new boots in that pond. I made it to a rock just a few feet away near shore and held on until the rest of the still cat calling 'friends' got down to get a line to me.

By that time I was almost near not breathing with all of the shuddering from the cold. After an hour of warming and shaking we were still left with the problem of the pack at the bottom of the tarn and it was getting late.  It was, for college kids, an irreplaceable investment in some good hardware - some of it borrowed.

Since I was the one in charge of 'loosing' the gear, it was (all but one) unanimously decided that since I was already wet, I should be the one to get it back.

Bootless, shirtless, pantless and wit less,  with a rope tied to me and held by two other guys of dubious character or responsibilities, I jumped in holding a large rock to get me to the bottom quickly. Hitting the water I almost ingested half of the pond in one gulp.  I could not believe how cold it was and how little control I had over what was a simple matter of putting a slinged caribiner over a pack's shoulder strap.

I was almost yanked out prematurely since they thought I had snagged the pack and was dragged out of the water mostly holding on to the pack. GAWD!  it was a lot heavier in the water than I thought it was on my back.

Back on the beach I went through a second series of warming up exercises with borrowed clothing...mine were still in the pack.

My teeth were still chattering as we passed the lakes on the way to the parking lot a few miles away.  So we stopped and made a huge fire (could do that back then) and finished the thawing out process. We ended up at the car well into the darkness of a moonless night.  I didn't fully feel comfortably warmed up until we passed Boulder on the way home.

Speed forward a couple of decades and our family (kids around 9/11) were doing a 4 day loop via Grand Lake ending up going down the same glacier - almost at the same time of day as last time.  This time we stayed well to the left.  I was amazed at how far the glacier had retreated. I would not have survived that slide off the end of it now into the rocks below and many feet from the end of the tarn.

My kids wanted to go swimming in Andrews Tarn to celebrate my unplanned trip there.  It was one of those in there; YIKES!; out of there activities.  It still felt just a few degrees above freezing.  It also didn't appear nearly as deep as it appeared previously.  But then the edge no longer over hung the water.

Looking back I am amazed how little life was really worth then.  Maybe $70 for a pack and hardware - $15 more for boots.  But then a nickle was worth a nickle then.

 Good thing you made it OK.

April 17, 2014
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